Different expertises in the same boat
The biology student swapped books for fishing gear and went to work with dinghy fishermen in northwest Greenland as part of her thesis. "Being on board dinghies and vessels gave me insight into the daily life of fishermen. In general, how they do things in practice, but also all the expert knowledge they have acquired over many generations."
In autumn 2021 and spring 2022, Amanda Irlind travelled to Greenland in connection with her education as a biologist specialising in fisheries. Here, through Royal Greenland and Sustainable Fisheries Greenland, she was tasked with documenting bycatch and securing the first data basis that will eventually form the basis for MSC certification of the inshore fishery for Greenland halibut in West Greenland.
"I wanted my thesis to be about fisheries and after a dialogue with Sustainable Fisheries Greenland, who had a specific assignment, I was ready to travel to Greenland. I spent a total of 4 months collecting data, most of the time on board dinghies and vessels, which provided a strong data basis for the fishery and a, for me, unique insight into the daily life of a fisherman."
With the fishermen at work
Amanda spent two time periods in Greenland, in Disko Bay and in Uummannaq. Two of the largest halibut fishing areas.
A typical day started by setting out with one of the local fishermen around 7.30am and after about 20-30 minutes of sailing, arriving at the fishing spot where the fisherman's longline was anchored the night before. While the fishermen did their job of raising the longline and gently unhooking the fish, Amanda recorded both the halibut catch and bycatch, including species, numbers and other data about the fishery (time, number of hooks, habitat and species). The fishing took about 4-5 hours, after which the fish had to be cleaned before landing.
"Once the halibut were on board, things moved quickly. The experienced fishermen got the halibut off the fishing gear, threw them into a fish tray and at the same time prepared the fishing gear for the next fishing. It really impressed me how skilful these fishermen are" Amanda explains "As part of the data collection, I counted all the halibut and the fishermen kept a close eye on the numbers. Then there was a bit of sport in guessing the expected number of halibut caught. If you guessed the number correctly or even closer than the others, you were quickly labelled a "Big Angler".
The data basis for future MSC certification
Once the vessel arrived in harbour and the fishermen started preparing for the next day's fishing, Amanda went to her office and entered data from the day's catch into her computer.
Back at the university in Denmark, the data was further processed and the bycatch mapped, and she investigated patterns in fishing behaviour depending on time, area, depth or fishing gear and estimated the total bycatch in the entire inshore Greenland halibut fishery. In addition to the results providing her with the basis for a successful thesis and thus the title of biologist, she was able to pass on a solid data set to Sustainable Fisheries Greenland, which is using it as a basis for further work to prepare the fishery for MSC accreditation.
"I have gained a great respect for the fishing industry and for these fishermen - they are cool" smiles Amanda "They were interested in my work and were happy to share anecdotes and knowledge with me."